All Or Nothing (UK Tour), Waterfront Hall | Review


All Or Nothing – The Mod Musical (Tour)
Waterfront Hall, Belfast
Reviewed on Wednesday October 18th by Damien Murray
 

Having missed its planned opening night due to cast travel problems caused by Storm Ophelia, the touring production of All Or Nothing – The Mod Musical blew into town for its Belfast debut a night later than expected.

Combining the story of a popular music-linked culture with the more personal, tragic and human story of one of its main bands, The Small Faces, who not only spear-headed the movement but also encapsulated its dress style, attitude and music, All Or Nothing is a jukebox musical … with a twist.

For, in the role of the ‘older’ Steve Marriott, Chris Simmons narrates what is essentially Marriott’s own story from beyond the grave as he guides us chronologically through the group’s history in flashback to give us a raw account of what being the front-man of this important British pop group was really like… warts and all.

Apart from Simmons’ believable performance as the ever-present ‘older’ Marriott and the show’s nostalgic and hit-filled score, the key to the success of this show is that it was written by Carol Harrison, who – as a friend of lead singer, Steve Marriott – had real insider knowledge of the man, the Small Faces as a group, their musical and business frustrations and of the Mod movement during its early days.


Named after the group’s biggest hit and only chart-topper (which knocked The Beatles off the chart’s top spot), All Or Nothing is a biographical piece of 60s nostalgia about a generation of free spirits.

Although the set was relatively basic, it was functional and the production not only boasted that most coveted of Mod essentials, a Vespa scooter, but also authentic costumes, hairstyles and dances, with some great choreography, incorporating the trademark 60s moves of the dancers in various television pop shows of the era.

However, this musical is not so much about the Mod movement as it is the disturbing story of a young pop group, covering its many non-glamorous moments from being mismanaged and vigorously exploited by the ‘Al Capone of pop’ – Don ‘I’ll exploit you for all your worth’ Arden – to the slow demise of the group and from Marriott being a trouble maker at school through to his tragic and untimely death.

We learn: how the group got its name; why they were the only group to be banned from performing on Top Of The Pops; why there was a change of style from Mod to Hippie; of Marriott’s relationship with P.P. Arnold; how his ego got too big; and how he got Rod Stewart’s girlfriend … while Stewart got his band.


Playing live and loud, the actor musicians playing the members of The Small Faces – Samuel Pope (young Marriott), Stanton Wright (Ronnie Laine), Alexander Gold (Ian McLagan) and Stefen Edwards (Kenny Jones) – were all exceptionally good, not only at recreating the group’s many hits, but for perfectly capturing the personality, physical appearance and even the individual playing/performance styles of their respective characters.

The show is peppered throughout with humour and references to and appearances by other celebrities from the era like Andrew Oldham, Robert Stigwood, Rod Stewart, David Jacobs, Cathy McGowan, Stanley Unwin and Tony Blackburn (and even including performances from such characters as Sonny and Cher, Dusty Springfield and P.P. Arnold), as the group appears on such iconic television pop shows as Thank Your Lucky Stars, Juke Box Jury, Ready Steady Go and Top Of The Pops.

Ahead of its transfer to the West End for a limited run, it is easy to see why this touring production has been building up quite a cult following. However, offering, perhaps, too much detail (particularly in early scenes), this show could benefit from some cuts and, with such basic sets and sound balance issues between the pre-recorded extracts and the live music, a higher degree of production values could easily make this cult piece the mainstream hit it deserves to be as a biographical/jukebox musical.

This raw, true and sad story has a moving and emotional ending with a heart-breaking solo acoustic extract from All Or Nothing by Chris Simmons before the mood changes in an up-beat hit-filled finale.

All Or Nothing runs at Waterfront Hall until October 19th


Photo credit: Phil Weedon

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